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DURBAN – The refusal of the African National Congress (ANC) to allow official support for Jacob Zuma at his corruption trial had laid fertile ground for political opportunists, the party’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership said on Wednesday.

Newly elected ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said that because the governing party was not officially part of the support structures for the former president when he appeared in court, there could be “massive infiltration” by groups and individuals “who want to use the platform to advance their own mission”.

Speaking at the party’s provincial headquarters in Durban, Ntuli was joined by newly appointed provincial spokesperson, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu. The briefing followed the first meeting of the newly elected Provincial Executive Committee (PEC).

At the start of Zuma’s trial, the National Executive Committee (NEC) declared that members could support the former president in their personal capacities, but not as party members or in party regalia.

The order was largely ignored by rank-and-file members and has seen leaders from other political parties -- such as Andile Mngxitama from Black First Land First -- rallying support for the former president and sharing a stage with him after his court appearances.

“We are not trying to prescribe to the NEC what must be done, we are saying to them that as national leadership they have taken a certain position that we ascribe to, but here are the consequences of the decision. How do we manage them together? How do we ensure that while respecting the NEC’s decision, we avoid the decision acting negatively on the movement?” asked Ntuli.

Some of the utterances made by the “characters” supporting Zuma outside the courts “are worrying us”, said Ntuli.

“The majority of people at those events are people of the ANC, but when there is no leadership, nature doesn’t allow for a vacuum. When the leadership abandons its responsibility, someone who may not be a leader under normal circumstances may assume the position of leading the masses,” he said.

“Those who do not belong to the ANC, they speak with authority and they advocate positions of their own organisations. Even if we are uncomfortable with some of the assertions they make, we have no authority and legitimacy to correct them using the platform of our own movement, yet, [Zuma] is the former president of the ANC.”

As for Zuma taking part in the party’s national election campaign, Ntuli said that Zuma, like other former leaders, was expected to do the work assigned to them by the NEC.

“We understand there is a sentiment coming from certain quarters saying he should not be allowed to participate in the campaign because he has legal issues and is facing court challenges,” said Ntuli.

But, he said, the party needed “literally every South African” to rally behind the movement.  

African News Agency (ANA)